Georges and Amélie had just stepped into the lobby of a run-down hotel in the 6th arrondissement of Ezon.

“This should be fine.”

Georges commented proudly. He still held Amélie’s small trunk in his overworked hands.

Amélie looked around the hotel slowly.

The lobby reeked of stale urine and was pitch black in the middle of the day. It was deserted and empty, but she could hear the occasional sound of the bath from upstairs, so there must be guests.

After scanning the worn, peeling faux marble, the waterlogged curtains, and the brass chandelier dangling precariously, Amélie nodded reluctantly.

“Yeah, it looks okay.”

The afternoon sun was just barely peeking through the raggedy windowpanes. In the handfuls of sunlight, old dust glistened and drifted.

“Classy, isn’t it?”

The corners of Amélie’s mouth twitched up and she nodded gently, and Georges laughed again, unhurriedly.

Still, Amelie didn’t say anything. Georges had chosen a place that she couldn’t help but like, but she respected his one-sided affection and kept her mouth shut.

“Two people? There’s only one room.”

A voice came from behind them, and Georges stopped and dropped the trunk, startled. The owner of the gravelly voice was a middle-aged man who didn’t seem to like him.

“No, I’ll be staying alone.”

Amélie smiled as she calmly replied. The man chewing on his leafy tobacco glanced back and forth between Amélie and Georges a few times, before giving Amélie a blatant glance and muttering a hmmm.

Even though it was a rather blatant gaze, Is it invisible in the eyes of Georges, the same man? He just grinned as if he didn’t notice anything.

“Amélie, let’s leave the luggage and get some fresh air.”

“Oh, wait, Georges.”

The man’s rogue glare was getting to her. Amélie lowered her voice, anxious.

“Why don’t we take a look at the other place?”

“Why, isn’t it nice here?”

Then Georges casually pulled out his wallet, which surprised Amélie because it was quite thick.


Without a moment’s hesitation, he flung the worn wallet open and pulled out the bills.

“What are you doing, I’ll pay.”

Amélie, greatly embarrassed, protested, but Georges waved her off with a sullen voice.

“Let me pay.”

Stunned, Amélie looked up at her friend. What’s wrong with him? Where did he get all this money?

Georges quickly pulled out a large stack of bills and thrust them at her.

“Here, for your room, and a tip.”

“Oh my, my lord, thank you.”

The man’s face contorted as if he were holding back a laugh, as if he’d seen through the little bastard. Amélie watched him jerk his chin arrogantly, and she felt a twinge of embarrassment, for it was not at all in keeping with his demeanour.

“Get her a room, and her luggage.”

Georges shoved the trunk he was carrying at the man. The sinister-looking man snorted, shoved a wad of bills into his pocket, and whisked up to the second floor.

“When you come in later, get the key here and go to the last room on the third floor.”

The creaky stairs made a creepy sound. In an instant, Georges and Amélie were alone in the musty lobby.

“Amélie, let’s go for a walk, have dinner, and then I’ll bring you back here.”

Amélie was perplexed. She’s not the only one staying here alone at night… No matter how she looked at it, this man looked dangerous and this hotel was unnerving.

She was about to turn her resentful eyes on Georges, but he was already heading for the door.

“It’s the last time I’ll ever see him.”

Amélie’s heart sank as she watched Georges’ seemingly blank expression. Amélie’s instinctive sense of danger didn’t seem to matter to him.

“I don’t mind paying for your stay, Amélie. I’m happy to pay for it.”

Georges seemed to think that Amélie was sorry that he had to pay for the room. He started to tell her that he could pay, but then realised that she wouldn’t understand the nuances anyway.

Anyway, he took a big leap of faith and offered to pay for the night, so she figured it was out of the goodness of Georges’ heart.

“Okay, Georges. Let’s go.”

Amélie let out a small sigh. Her whole body was heavy from last night, but she didn’t want to rest in this hotel.

* * *

Since leaving the hotel, Amélie had been strangely annoyed by Georges.

Was he being too mean, to find a well-meaning friend who was helping her, so annoying?

Georges’ half-hearted good intentions continued to bother Amélie. As a bicycle passed by them, Georges gave her arm a quick tug, almost causing her to fall.

When he insisted on buying her a bouquet of flowers, even though she refused, he dragged her into a flower garden and slammed her against the door.

He even asked her to go into a jewellery store on a whim. Georges acted so desperate to spend money that she wondered where he stole it from.

He was as inconsiderate as he was impatient. As if he had forgotten that Amélie had been upset all night, he simply dragged her from place to place, spending money as if to show off.

It occurred to her that perhaps Georges was desperately imitating the nobleman whose wallet opened so easily. Perhaps the after-effects of Olivier Dampierre’s swoon had affected Georges as well.

More and more, Amélie grew weary.

* * *

Finally, they moved to a nearby park.

There was a large boardwalk that circled a small lake. Amélie and Georges walked side by side along the water’s edge, passing thick clusters of chestnut, paulownia, and sycamore trees.

“I’m glad I came to a place like this with you, Amélie, instead of just cleaning up horse manure all day.”

Georges grinned bitterly and patted Amélie on the arm.

“You too?”

A pair of ducks picked at each other’s feathers, occasionally quacking on the surface of the water. Amélie looked away, avoiding Georges’ heated gaze as she watched the ducks.

It was a languid spring afternoon. The water smelled fresh and flowery, but Amélie’s mind kept drifting back to last night.

Her cheeks heated as she recalled the moment when she’d slipped on his coat and walked through the warmth of spring. She rubbed her now-empty palm against the hem of her skirt.

What is this, the curse of the noble master?

Her chest tightened. From now on, Amélie Gagnier, the former maid, would see Olivier Dampierre’s well-crafted smile whenever she met any man for the rest of her life.

When she stumbled in the woods, Olivier didn’t tug at her arm, but gently propped her up on his elbow to protect her. She loved the delicacy of his body.

Or when Amélie stumbled shakily into the main hall of the ballroom. Olivier deftly, as if out of habit, stretched his arm over her head and held the door open for her.

Even in that moment of rudeness and cruelty, when he slipped the ring on her finger, he had the faintest hint of compassion, gently touching the hand that held it.

“Amélie Gagnier. Crazy, really.”

A sigh escaped her lips before she could stop it.

“What’s wrong, Amélie?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Leaving Georges to ramble on, Amélie returned to her thoughts.

This is why noblemen are so dangerous.

A man she would never have met in her life. Even a man who said its a disgrace to love a maid face to face. It has been a while, but she can’t believe that her heart is used for such a long time.

* * *

Georges and Amélie sat side by side on the bench. The view of the calm lake reminded her of last night’s encounter.

Amélie had long since lost her concentration, but Georges hadn’t stopped talking about his future.

“It would be perfect to have three daughters with brown hair and chestnut eyes, and it would be nice to get a job at Biché and start working from a young age… Amélie?”

“Uh, uh. I mean, when you say young, how young?”

Amélie asked deeply, feeling a lump in her throat.

“Well, Amélie, you’ve been working since you were nine. I came to Biché when I was twelve, but since we’re Biché servants, maybe you can start earlier? Seven?”

“That’s too young.”

The brown-haired, chestnut-eyed children of Georges’ imagination were unmistakably the offspring of Amélie Gagnier.

An ominous sense of foreboding crept up on hwe.

She didn’t want to be the woman who was propositioned twice in one day, each time by men she didn’t like for different reasons.

“Listen, Georges. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay for dinner. I’m too tired and would like to retire early.”

Amélie left the park with Georges behind her, who was still disappointed that he didn’t get to say words he had prepared, and left the park.

The golden sun was slowly setting.

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